63 at Indiana
By Tom Rietmann
INDIANAPOLIS -- It was a special night for Tamika Catchings, but the Indiana Fever star didn't want to dwell on that. She preferred to discuss the all-around effort her team turned in Thursday night in a 77-63 victory over the Chicago Sky.
The Fever held Chicago to 40.7 percent shooting and outrebounded the Sky 36-27. Indiana's reserves amassed 37 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and five steals. The Fever outscored Chicago 34-24 in the paint and dominated the visitors in second-chance points, 22-6.
“I think we came out real focused as a team,” Catchings said. “The biggest thing we wanted to do was just attack in transition.”
The victory halted a three-game skid and pushed Indiana (11-6) back to the top of the WNBA Eastern Conference ahead of this weekend's All-Star break.
“As a team, we all committed tonight,” Catchings said about Indiana's strong effort. “Everybody just came out with a lot more energy.”
The triumph was a birthday present for Catchings, who turned 32 on Thursday. It also came on a night the team honored her by handing out bobblehead dolls with her likeness. Catchings, who totaled 13 points and seven rebounds against Chicago, heads for the WNBA All-Star Game as the league's leading vote-getter.
Jessica Davenport came off the bench to lead Indiana with 20 points and collect five rebounds while often going against Chicago star Sylvia Fowles. Fowles, the WNBA's leading scorer, got 21 points but just one rebound, almost nine under her average.
“I thought (Davenport) was very aggressive attacking their bigs in the paint,” Fever coach Lin Dunn said. “Sylvia is just a great player. And I thought Davenport showed a lot of confidence going right at her.”
For Davenport, it was her eighth straight game in double-digit scoring and 11th of the season.
“I thought they were playing single coverage,” Davenport said about Chicago's defense, “so anytime someone plays single coverage on me or anybody on this team, our thing is to attack. That's what I did.”
Shannon Bobbitt came off the Indiana bench and put defensive heat on Chicago point guard Courtney Vandersloot. She sparked an Indiana defense that disrupted the Sky (8-9), who committed 18 turnovers. Chicago scored zero fast-break points.
Bobbitt also provided an offensive lift with seven points and strong transition play.
“We came out and wanted to jump on them from the tipoff,” Bobbitt said. “We were up in passing lanes and picking them up fullcourt and giving their point guards a hard time.
“Tonight I just wanted to come out and give a lot of energy,” Bobbitt added.
Shyra Ely, a reserve forward for the Fever, grabbed seven rebounds, tying for the game high with Catchings and Katie Douglas. Ely, an Indianapolis native, spent the 2009 season with Chicago.
“I felt good today,” Ely said. “It's always fun to play a former team. I wanted to come in and produce off the bench. I've tried to refocus on rebounding. That's really been a goal of mine -- when I get in, to go after the boards.”
While Catchings and Douglas head to San Antonio for Saturday afternoon's All-Star Game, the rest of the Fever will get a few days off at the midway point of their 34-game schedule. Dunn, like Catchings, was happy the Indiana team turned in a sound performance both defensively and offensively as it goes into the break.
Said Dunn: “I thought it was a really good effort for us to be more aggressive defensively, to be more disruptive, and to really push the ball and run the floor and score early. And we were attacking the paint.”
Lauren Cheney, a standout on the USA women's soccer team and a graduate of Indianapolis Ben Davis High School, attended Thursday night's game as part of the Inspiring Women Night activities. When Cheney was introduced to the crowd before the game, she received long and loud applause from the 8,050 fans at Conseco Fieldhouse. … Catchings, who graduated from Duncanville High School in Texas, said she expects about 50 of her family members and friends to be on hand for All-Star festivities this weekend in San Antonio.